Hilary's Diaries - Hilary Townsend President of Stalbridge History Society
I grew up in Stalbridge. My first home was at Hewlett’s farm, later we moved to a house in the High Street. I’ve always loved Stalbridge and found everything about it so interesting. School, at the school in Duck Lane was followed by year at the old school on Church Hill, now a private house. From there I took a scholarship to the old grammar school at Gillingham, where the headmaster gave me a lifelong love of English literature and language and the history master made history come alive.
A scholarship to University College Southampton when I was 18 to read for an English degree was of course a tremendous opportunity and I was grateful, but leaving Stalbridge gave me my first experience of home sickness. This homesickness lasted for the next 40 years. I had to earn my living of course - personnel manager in industry and later lecturing in management subjects in a Technical College - so 40 years went by before I was able to return to Stalbridge to live.
I came back to live at Silk Hay, my mother’s old house in the High Street, and here my love of history served me well. The house was about to fall down. It proved to be one end of a mediaeval merchant’s house with a Tudor extension and as my name was on the deeds I had to sort it all out. This took 30 years.
All this time, I was a freelance journalist. My professional name became Hilary Townsend and I wrote about the Blackmore Vale and Stalbridge among many other things. Ever since I learnt to read and write at the school in Duck Lane I had wanted to become a writer, so now I could apply my pen to the place where I lived. This was a delight, both for me personally and because I had always felt horrified that so little was known about the history of Stalbridge. Robert Boyle and James Thornhill are our most famous inhabitants but there is no memorial of any kind to them and nothing else much is marked or known about.
Stalbridge History Group was formed some 8 years ago when some newcomers were curious to know more about Stalbridge and the group developed into Stalbridge History Society. This Society has flourished and grown and in 2018 mounted an outstanding exhibition of the 1918 Sale of Stalbridge. This attracted members from well beyond Stalbridge so the ignorance of the past can at last be overcome. Schemes for fresh research come up constantly and are followed up with unbelievable enthusiasm. I am delighted to have become first Chairman, now President of such a flourishing society.
© Hilary Townsend